Dr. Ruchi Sinha: ‘Update labour laws for remote work‘

'A comprehensive framework is needed for the evolving world of remote work'

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With remote work continuing to be a defining aspect of the modern workforce, Dr. Ruchi Sinha, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of South Australia (UniSA) Business, is raising the pressing need for comprehensive updates to labour laws and protections.

Dr. Sinha’s insights come in response to the recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report on the welfare and wellbeing of Australians, which revealed that nearly half of all employees had worked from home at least once a week by April 2022.

“A comprehensive framework is needed for the evolving world of remote work,“ Dr. Sinha told Indian Link.   “This includes clear definitions, standardized practices, and ensuring transparency in expectations. Moreover, the health, safety, and cybersecurity of remote workers should not be overlooked.”

One of the central challenges posed by the rise of remote work is the blurring of boundaries between work and personal time. Dr. Sinha calls for updates to labour laws, ensuring that remote workers receive equivalent protections concerning work hours, overtime, and breaks to those enjoyed by their in-office counterparts.

“The remote work phenomenon has blurred the boundaries between work and personal time. With challenges such as the lack of oversight on working hours and the pressure to be ‘always on’, there’s a critical need to update labour laws. Protections concerning work hours, overtime, and breaks for remote workers should be equivalent to those of in-office employees,” she stated.

Dr. Sinha’s perspective extends to the rights and protections that all remote workers deserve. In her view, remote workers should have access to ergonomic workspaces, robust cybersecurity, clear labour laws, and protection against surveillance.

“As the nature of work shifts, our regulations and protections must adapt to ensure the health, safety, and rights of all workers,” she emphasised.

To ensure inclusivity in remote work policies, Dr. Ruchi Sinha recommends that employers engage in needs assessments, promote flexibility in work hours, ensure ergonomic workspaces, and provide accessible technology. “Emphasis should be placed on mental health support, regular policy reviews, and creating a culture that prioritizes understanding and empathy among team members,” she noted.

Mental health is also of paramount concern under Work From Home (WFH) conditions. Dr. Sinha advocates for regular check-ins, access to virtual counselling, promoting physical well-being, and fostering a sense of community to bolster the mental and emotional health of remote workers.

Challenges such as blurred work-life boundaries and inherent isolation can impact life satisfaction and mental health. Employers, Dr Sinha emphasised, must be aware of these issues and provide avenues of support and community to ensure the holistic well-being of their staff.

Addressing the digital divide, Dr. Sinha stressed the importance of investing in broadband infrastructure, especially in rural areas. She believes that by making essential tools affordable and providing training modules, Australia can address digital poverty head-on and ensure that all remote workers have the necessary resources.

Dr. Sinha recognises the potential in hybrid work models, which offer the best of both worlds by combining the flexibility of remote work with the collaborative benefits of in-office interactions. She emphasises the importance of considering employee preferences, adjusting infrastructures, and organising regular team events to strike this balance.

Dr. Ruchi Sinha’s insights shed light on the evolving landscape of remote work and the urgent need for reconsideration of labour laws. Her recommendations provide valuable guidance for policymakers, employers, and employees alike.

“As our work landscape transforms, policies must be proactive, inclusive, and anticipatory of the needs of tomorrow,” she concluded.

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